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• Dec. 13, 2021

You've just sat down for a family dinner and before you can finish passing around the mashed potatoes, the conversation turns personal.

Talking about money is one of those uncomfortable subjects we often can't seem to avoid when getting together with family over the holidays. And just like religion and politics, money and finances can be particularly taboo. But awkward money moments don't have to dampen family festivities. Here are some tips on how to gracefully navigate common finance topics and conversations you may encounter over the holiday season.

How do I let others know I won't be buying gifts this year?

For many Canadians, holiday spending will increase this year compared to last—but will still remain below pre-pandemic levels according to the PwC 2021 Canadian Holiday Outlook. Whether you have new financial priorities, were negatively impacted financially by the pandemic, or are tired of shopping for gifts people don't need, telling relatives or friends you'd like to ditch the holiday gift-giving tradition can be uncomfortable.

If gifts aren't in your budget, make sure to tell your family before sitting down to unwrap presents. Talk to relatives in advance to explain your reasons for scaling back gift giving and suggest other ways to enjoy the holiday season, such as organizing a family activity, making homemade gifts, or pooling your cash to make a charitable donation.

What are some ways I can tell relatives not to spoil my kids during the holidays?

What if you're happy to give and receive gifts, but you'd prefer it if your child didn't get quite so many presents? Whether your kids have more toys than they can use, or you're trying to teach them the holidays aren't just about presents, relatives spoiling kids can be a real concern. Before broaching the topic, remember to acknowledge that your loved ones have good intentions— even if they splurge a bit too much. Thank them for their generosity and be open and honest about why you want to reduce the number of gifts your child receives. Suggest other ways relatives can demonstrate their love like spending meaningful time together.

Image of awkward holiday conversations

How do I politely say 'no' when someone asks for money?

Perhaps the most awkward of all potential holiday conversations is getting hit up for cash by a family member. Loaning money to anyone comes with risks, but it can be especially complicated when family relationships are thrown into the mix. If all goes well, you could be helping a family member. But are you willing to risk straining your relationship if things turn sour?

Refrain from giving a definitive answer if you're in the middle of a family gathering—whether in person or virtually. Saying yes right away could put you into trouble down the road and saying no could cause your relative to get upset. Instead, tell them you want to be there to support however you can, but that you'll need to put some thought into whether you're able to lend money. Schedule a time to talk one-on-one after you've had time to think through your response. If you decide to decline their request but still want to support them in some manner, offer to help them get through their difficult time in other ways.

How do I deal with those who ask too many questions about my personal life?

"When will you…buy a house? Get married? Finish school?"

For many of us, the holidays are a time when we're awkwardly put on the spot about our lives by well-meaning family members. It's uncomfortable to have to answer questions you'd rather not, and it can be frustrating if you feel like your relatives are making judgements about you.

If you're put under the spotlight, make sure to stay calm and collected by reminding yourself that your relatives don't necessarily understand your financial situation or your lifestyle. Remember that when your uncle asks about your plans for buying a house, he's probably not thinking about the rising costs of homeownership since he bought his. So, keep calm, laugh it off, and practice your conversation deflection skills!

Want to learn more about personal finance?
How to handle four common money conversations over the holidays
Love & Money: How to financially recover after a breakup
What are some of the unexpected costs of buying a home?

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